Non-SAC funded groups look for alternative funding
Many groups find they have to constantly fundraise or apply for grants
October 23, 2013, 6:23 pm · Updated October 23, 2013, 10:41 pm·
Since the beginning of the Student Activities Council’s moratorium last September, funding a new student group has become more difficult and expensive.
Last fall, SAC implemented a moratorium on recognizing and funding new student groups due to raised facilities costs and past SAC-recognized student group debt. Since then, many new groups have formed and are struggling to pay for their activities.
Many of these groups’ board members spoke of constant fundraising and grant applications, high membership dues and dipping into their own bank accounts to pay for events.
Board members of Penn Check One, a multiracial and multicultural group, paid out of pocket for their events until they received funding support from the Greenfield Intercultural Center.
Students who participate in Penn Global Medical Brigade trips pay about $1,500. This cost does not including the $2,000 dollars worth of medical supplies they need to bring on each trip. Participants typically chip in between $20 and $50 for medical supplies in addition to the $1,500.
The group does hold bake sales but can never raise the full amount for the trip.
“Each year, it is such a struggle to get funding … we have to … pay out of our own pockets,” Engineering sophomore and group co-president Chang Su said.
Many student groups spoken to for this article pointed out that some of their members cannot afford to pay for these trips and events, which then end up excluding people.
“A lot of people express interest and then say they can’t afford it,” Su said.
Members of Penn Quidditch pay $15 in dues in addition to travel and equipment costs.
“I feel guilty asking so much out of people who joined because it’s a fun sport,” group president and College senior Ibi Etomi said.
Similarly, the Penn Ethics Bowl team will not be traveling to compete at a regional competition at Sacred Heart University in New York City in November because the group cannot afford it. According to team president and College freshman Caroline Wallace, they are looking into alternate sources of funding offered by the University to fund competition trips next fall.
College sophomore Louis Capozzi, the co-president of the Government and Politics Association, also expressed discomfort that the Polybian Society, GPA’s non-partisan political discussion group, might preclude lower income students from joining. This is because the group needs the money from dues in order to function.
“Dues payments are one of the main ways we are able to fund things in the short term,” he said.
However, even for the groups who are able to get funding, they have to constantly apply or think about fundraising.
“We don’t have more than $200 in the treasury,” Capozzi said of his group’s funds. “We [have to] find more week to week.”
Disney A Capella, a 15-member group which sings exclusively songs from Disney musicals, wanted to apply for SAC funding last fall, but the SAC moratorium had just been instated.
The group fundraises extensively to pay for sound equipment for their concerts, selling advertisements in their concert programs, organizing raffles at their concerts and holding bake sales. The group gives most of their ticket proceeds to charity.
According to group member and College junior Kiara Vaughn, renting sound equipment, paying sound technicians to set up the equipment costs and related facilities costs adds up to between $400 and $800. The group forgoes lights, which would be more expensive.
“It worked really nice for us even though it would be nice to have some funds … It would be a lot less stressful,” Vaughn said.
Keynotes A Capella, a campus singing group founded in 2010, uses their ticket proceeds to fund their concerts. Group president and College junior Becky Sokolow estimates that a single concert costs $360, including sound equipment and printed posters.
However, other sources of funding does exist.
SAC published an updated alternate funding guide in 2013 for these groups that are affected by the moratorium. The funding guide lists 18 different sources for student group funding.
Other groups have applied for funding from the University, receiving money from groups such as the Greenfield intercultural Center, Kelly Writers House and the Netter Center among others.
Penn Secular Society President and College and Wharton junior Seth Koren says the group benefited from a Year of Proof grant, alumni donations and funds from the Secular Student Alliance, a national umbrella group. The group still sometimes pays out of pocket for some things.
Penn GPA’s past speaker events, which included James Florio, the former governor of New Jersey, was funded by SPEC Connaissance.
“If it weren’t for [SPEC], we wouldn’t be able to do [speaker] events,” Capozzi said.
However,“it’s no substitute for a steady budget,” he added.
A previous version of this article stated that members of Penn Quidditch pay $150 in dues to to the International Quidditch Association. They pay $15 in dues plus transportation costs. The $150 is for the group overall.